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I recently commented on a Facebook post of a friend and suddenly got messaged by someone who was involved in the post. This person is in fact part of my social circle, however we are not close, we just share friends. This person stated that, one of the person's involved in that post, was a "disgusting pedophile"(this was not out of the blue however, we talked about other subjects before that). I, personally don't know the other person, however when I asked why didn't he go to the police to report, he promptly changed the subject, then, I kept asking on why that person in particular was a pedophile, since this is a concern to me(I have a small sister who could be endangered, since the accused is part of the same social circle), after that, he blocked me. Afterwards when talking with some friends, I learned that on several occasions he has made the same accusations about that person, to different people. Later on, I found out that those two actually don't get along and have a very strong hatred for each other due to political views.

I'm not close to the accuser, and I don't know the accused person. He could in fact, be a pedophile, but, given the lack of evidence and the fact that this person keeps spreading those accusations, could those messages he sent me (and to others) be used as proof of defamation? I'm heavily considering on sending those to the accused, since this feels the right thing to do.

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    I've just tidied up the spelling and wording in a few places. If you don't like the changes, feel free to roll back. (I managed to resist changing the accusation to "paedophile" - because "pedophile" is correct in American English – Martin Bonner Nov 15 '18 at 16:45
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Yes, a statement made to only a single other person can be defamation, at least in the US (you don't mention the jurisdiction that you or the accused person are in, and it may matter).

Only the accused person can normally sue, and that person would need to establish that the statement was made, and that it was false. In most cases actual damage to reputation also needs to be established. However, a few limited categories are considered defamatory per se. these include an accusation that a person is guilty of a serious crime. (The exact line for defamation per se will depend on the jurisdiction.) If a statemant is defamatory per se actual damage need not be proved.

Strictly speaking saying that someone "is a pedophile" only says that that person is sexually attracted to children, but it is usually taken to mean that the person has in fact sexually abused children, which is a crime, and would I am sure be considered defamatory per se. Even so, proof of actual damage to the reputation of the person defamed might be important to the measure of damages to be awarded. often the number of people to whom an accusation is made is relevant to the degree of damage to the reputation, and thus to the damages to be awarded, but the relation is not always 1-to-1. Particularly with a very serious accusation, the damage to reputation could be significant, even if only one or a few people heard the false statement.

By the way, the word is spelled "pedophile" (or paedophile in UK English), it is from two Greek words meaning literally "lover of the young". A now obsolete related term is "pederast", with much the same meaning.

  • On an additional note: He did in fact accused him of having sexual intercourse with children. – Nick LeBlanc Nov 15 '18 at 16:34
  • Maybe this is a jurisdiction-specific thing, but isn't the whole point of per se defamation that you don't have to prove actual damages? – bdb484 Nov 15 '18 at 16:39
  • Then that statement is clearly defamatory, unless it can be proved true by a preponderance of the evidence. However, the person defamed may choose not to sue, because a suit would publicize the false accusations. Also, in the US, if the person defamed is a "public figure" s/he might have to prove "actual malice" i.e knowing falsity or reckless disregard of possible falsity. That is a specifically US rule. – David Siegel Nov 15 '18 at 16:41
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    The answer is largely accurate, but some details warrant clarification: (1) in defamation per se, there is no need to prove damages to reputation: they are presumed, hence the suffix per se; (2) not all false accusations of a crime are defamatory per se, but usually only those that are felonies or serious offenses; (3) to be awarded a recovery in court, (i) damages to reputation need to be proved, or (ii) in case of defamation per se, it needs to be proved that the defendant's publications were made with actual malice (regardless of whether the plaintiff is a public figure). – Iñaki Viggers Nov 15 '18 at 16:44
  • In England and Wales an accusation of sexual intercourse is definitely defamatory. However a suit of libel or slander can be defended by showing it is true. (There are a number of other defences - principally that the communication was privileged.) – Martin Bonner Nov 15 '18 at 16:49
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I'm heavily considering on sending those to the accused, since this feels the right thing to do.

Yes. That is definitely the right thing to do. A person needs to know when someone else is spreading despicable falsehoods about that person.

I see your inquiry was satisfactorily/accurately answered. However, I write to add few remarks that, although not being part of your question, are crucial if your [defamed] acquaintance opts to sue the defamer.

In the vast majority of U.S. jurisdictions, the statute of limitations for claims of defamation is usually one year (and only six months in Tennessee). Thus, it is much shorter than the typical three years for other claims. This means that if your acquaintance files suit regarding defamatory publications (the term that encompasses all types of communications) which were made a year and one day earlier, the defamer will easily achieve the dismissal of the complaint.

Your acquaintance should also check the legislation of his state to learn of any prerequisites that need to be met prior to filing suit. For instance, Texas and Florida require the prospective plaintiff to request a retraction from the defamer. Of course, in court the plaintiff will need to prove that he requested the retraction. If the plaintiff skips that requirement, the lawsuit is dismissed in those two states. In Michigan, that presuit demand of retraction is indispensable for recovery of exemplary and punitive damages. See MCL 600.2911.

Unfortunately, nowadays many judges in the U.S. are too debauched to recognize the importance of a person's due reputation. I learned this as a pro se plaintiff in two defamation lawsuits which I took up to the U.S. Supreme Court (petitions are here and here). My cases were presided in trial court by a felon (literally a not-yet-convicted felon), and it did not get any better in upper courts. But notwithstanding the moral ineptitude of the judiciary, I would still encourage a defamed person to take matters to the court because that might be the only way to obtain evidence with which to debunk the liar (and push back, always with the truth in hand). And of course, there is always a chance that your acquaintance's case might be presided by judges who still have integrity.

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    This answer is generally useful. I don't understand the instinct to debase it -- and so many others -- with rants about personal grievances that do nothing to answer the question at hand. – bdb484 Nov 15 '18 at 18:34
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    This is far from your first answer that makes vague assertions of corruption which are completely irrelevant to the question asked. I am flagging them as rude/abusive because these statements are unnecessary attacks on people and take advantage of Stack Exchange's largely free-rein moderation to post them online. You can rant on Facebook - here, please stick to answers to questions. – Nij Nov 15 '18 at 19:08
  • @bdb484 "I don't understand the instinct to debase it" I don't consider it "debasing". It is honest and important to make people aware that courts often depart from what we see in opinions and statutes. Otherwise, we would be setting unsuspecting civilians up for a rude awakening and a very costly experience. Thanks for the initial remark, though. – Iñaki Viggers Nov 15 '18 at 19:38
  • @Nij These are not "vague" or unnecessary assertions (see also my previous comment to bdb484): in fact, one of the links I posted shows court records, a police report, and a letter by the prosecutor regarding the judge's felony and some of its implications. To say that I am taking advantage of anyone is unfair. I wish not everyone had to undergo a deprivation of his rights to stop censuring someone's verifiable denouncements. By flagging this, you might be depriving the OP and others of crucial information. The judiciary claims that it is open for public scrutiny ... then, here is some of it. – Iñaki Viggers Nov 15 '18 at 19:45

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